Michael Douglas makes pre-emptive move to deny sexual misconduct allegation

Michael Douglas, the Oscar-winning actor, has warned that "uncorroborated" accusations of sexual misconduct against high profile men such as himself could undermine the anti-harassment campaign sweeping Hollywood.

The star of Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct made his comments as he publicly announced that he was being accused of masturbating in front of a female employee 32 years ago, which he vehemently denied.

He criticised the ease with which men of his "repute and reputation" could be accused "with no evidence". Such claims could lead to a backlash against the #MeToo movement, which exploded in the wake of revelations about abuse by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, he said.

Douglas, 73, explained that, just before Christmas, he was contacted, through his lawyer, by The Hollywood Reporter, a leading entertainment industry trade magazine.

A woman had gone to the magazine claiming that he once masturbated in front of her.

She also claimed he used "colourful language," that he spoke "raunchily or dirtily" with friends when she was present, and that he "blackballed" her from getting another job in Hollywood after firing her.

% breakdown of tweets mentioning the #MeToo hashtag

Outlining his decision to make the allegations public himself, before the Hollywood Reporter published them, Douglas said: "I would hope that, as a cautionary tale, we will be careful about accusing and being accused.

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"There is no evidence. This would not be presented in a court of law. I find this whole thing really irresponsible.

"I hope this movement (#MeToo) continues to grow, but that there is care shown in who is accused and how the accusation is handled."

The actor thanked Catherine Zeta Jones, 48, his wife of 18 years, and their two teenage children, Dylan and Carys, for standing by him during a "complete nightmare".

He said the woman’s main accusation, that he masturbated in front of her, was a "complete lie, fabrication, no truth to it whatsoever" and he did not expect other women to make similar allegations. He also vehemently denied blackballing her.

Douglas said: "My head was reeling. I just couldn’t put this together. It’s extremely painful. I pride myself on my reputation in this business. I don’t have skeletons in my closet.

"I’m bewildered why, after 32 years, this is coming out now. I will ‘fess up to colourful language. If she was offended, she could have excused herself.

"The part that hurt the worst is having to share something like this to your wife and your children. My kids are really upset." Douglas said the accusation could unfairly threaten work he had coming up with Hollywood studios.

He remembered his accuser as "sophisticated and intelligent". He said she was fired because of job performance and was "perhaps disgruntled" and trying to get a book deal.

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